British Columbia has an incredibly diverse landscape, ranging from lush coastal rainforests, dry interior grasslands, globally unique inland rainforests, boreal forests and coastal estuaries. B.C.’s diverse ecosystems are home to tens of thousands of species – many of which have yet to be discovered.
Decades of human influence, a changing climate, and shifts in natural systems have led to many species becoming at-risk. Each of these species plays a role in the ecosystem in which they exist. In many cases their roles are not yet fully understood.
Each species relies on healthy ecosystems for their survival – for their homes, food and security. When a species disappears, it can impact the functioning of the whole ecosystem. There is no way to know the impacts ahead of time.
We have heard, through our previous engagements, there is interest in using an ecosystem-based approach to protecting and recovering species at risk. An ecosystem-based approach can be complex, and can mean different things to different people. For some people, it may mean protecting entire ecosystems, such as sagebrush steppe ecosystems in the Okanagan or Garry Oak meadows on southern Vancouver Island. For others, it refers to protecting broad ranges of habitat for keystone species that may capture the needs of many other species.
One of the most common sentiments we hear for using an ecosystem-based approach to protecting species at risk is that it could allow for the protection of species that are not yet known. We’ve also heard this type of approach could provide protection for other species before they become at risk. These are potential strengths.
On the flip side, we hear that an ecosystem approach may not provide effective protection to some species, and focusing on an ecosystem, or a group of species, may not adequately address the needs of individual species. Likewise, we hear that an ecosystem approach may not be appropriate in all circumstances. Others see the inclusion of an ecosystem-based approach as outside the scope of species-at-risk legislation.
We do know that B.C. has a large number of species at risk, and focusing our efforts species-by-species will be challenging, both in terms of our ability to carry out recovery actions and in accounting for all species in all circumstances. In some cases a species-based approach will be the best approach, in others an ecosystem-based approach could be possible.
At this stage of policy development we hope to hear from you on:
- What do you see as the goal of an ecosystem-based or multi-species approach to protecting species at risk?
- What concerns do you have around an ecosystem-based or multi-species approach to protecting and recovering species at risk?